Any traveler who has come within a stone’s throw of a major American airport has heard of the Virgin airlines. Among other brands, they’ve got Virgin America operating service between a handfull of fortunate, domestic cites, V Australia bouncing between Los Angeles and Australia and the granddaddy, Virgin Atlantic, serving the United Kingdom and beyond.
Throughout the years, the airline has cultivated a quality product, a hip, posh experience that bucks the trend of traditional airline travel, driving down prices, impressing passengers and ruffling a few feathers along the way.
Among the avenues that they use to excel this product is the Clubhouse, Virgin Atlantic’s signature lounge built for the pampering of upper (business) class passengers and Flying Club gold members before and after their flights. And these are no ordinary, anemic lounges, either. Each clubhouses embodies the Virgin brand with top quality services, appointments, food and drink.
The opening of their newest lounge at London Gatwick last month piqued our interest, so Gadling decided to take a first-hand peek inside of a similar clubouse for a closer look at the offerings. Passing through London Heathrow this past holiday, we had the chance to stop in for a visit to their flagship lounge.
%Gallery-80310%In case you’ve never been, international airline lounges are generally pretty formulaic. A series of front desks provide passenger screening and assistance – you can go here to check your flight, make changes and ask questions about your tickets. Inside of the lounges you’ll find a variety of food, beverage and pampering amenities, as well as the occasional shower and entertainment feature. It’s all fairly standard for an international lounge.
Where Virgin Atlantic excels is in the quality of these amenities. Heathrow’s Clubhouse is a sprawling, multi leveled complex, cleanly appointed in white and wooden tones throughout. The massive open space has been segmented into different themed regions, each area offering a different take on relaxation. There’s the poolside section, for example, where a dozen seats and tables sprawl around a waterfall and pond, or a runway-facing lounge where airline enthusiasts can watch jets and crew scamper around the tarmac. They’ve even got a rooftop deck for warm weather plane spotting.
In preparation for the upcoming flights, passengers can have a shower or book Cowshed treatments for a quick manicure, pedicure or shave. And naturally, a full deli backed up by a wide range of top shelf liquor, beer, juice and smoothies is available for grazing.
The entire setting is engineered to create the perfect, serene, pre-flight experience, the complete antithesis of the madness of Heathrow. And though Gatwick’s lounge will be slightly smaller, the same concepts and appointments will carry through, down to the same Cowshed treatments available in-house.
To visit the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, passengers must be booked in Upper Class or be a Flying Club Gold member with no single-use or day passes available. You can find branded clubhouses in London Heathrow, London Gatwick, New York’s JFK, Newark, Washington Dulles, San Francisco, Boston, Johannesburg, Tokyo and Hong Kong. Amenities will differ slightly by location.